DayBreaks for 2/21/19 – I AM #7: The Resurrection

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DayBreaks for 2/21/2019: I AM #7: The Resurrection

John 11:25 (CSBBible) – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.

We often think about powerful people or things. At least I do. There is a saying that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That was never less true than in the case of Jesus.

As the mourners were gathered around Jesus as he stood outside of Lazarus’ tomb that day, they weren’t just in the presence of a craftsman’s son from Nazareth – they were in the presence of the greatest power the world ever has or will see. They were in the presence not of the one who would bring the resurrection, but of the One who IS the resurrection. The mourners gathered at the tomb never expecting to see Lazarus again for he was dead – certifiably dead as he’d been in the tomb long enough that, according to Jewish thought, the spirit would have left because the corpse was no longer identifiable. Yet standing shoulder to shoulder with them was the power of life over death, the power to turn corrupted flesh into vibrant, pink tissue, the power to restart a heart.

The Jews had a very troubled history by the first century: defeat, captivity, slavery, oppression and no or very little vindication, yet they had an unshakeable conviction that they were the people of God and given His character, they reasoned that there must be world beyond where all would be made right and the dead would live again in peace.

This raising of Lazarus is a foreshadow, but a poor one, of what our resurrection will be. Lazarus was going to die again. Our resurrection (and his second one!) will be into immortality.

I don’t know about you, but I need that kind of power in my life not just for the future, but for the now as well. I need the power of one who can transform my sinful self into something new and living. And the one who can do that is not just standing shoulder to shoulder with me at a graveside, but he lives within. All I need do is to hear his voice and “come forth”.

PRAYER: Lord, let us live in your resurrected power not just for eternity, but in the now as well! In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

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DayBreaks for 1/18/18 – If We’d Been There

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DayBreaks for 1/18/18: If We’d Been There

From the DayBreaks archive, January 2008:

More from John 11 today: John 11:43-44 (NIV)  – When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out! The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.

I can’t hardly imagine the spectacle around the tomb of Lazarus.  Like most tombs of that time, it was either a cave-like structure carved horizontally into the rock, or a vertical hole in the ground.  Either way, such tombs would have a stone placed over the entrance for at least three reasons: to keep out the wild animals that would tear at the decaying flesh, to keep out vandals that might try to steal any valuables and to keep in the stench of decay. 

We know from several of the verses that people were gathered around.  They’d most likely accompanied Mary and Martha as they made their way to the tomb – it was customary for the mourners to travel together at such times.  And we know that Jesus asked “them” to move the stone.  What we often forget is what else Jesus asked “them” to do. 

When Lazarus came back to life, he was still wound up by the grave wrappings.  I don’t know if Lazarus “floated” out of the tomb, or hobbled mummy-like to the entrance, or hopped.  We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter – somehow Lazarus got there.  But even as he drew his first breath, he may have started to think he was suffocating because of the wrappings around his head and chest.  The wrappings needed to come off.  And Jesus gave the job to “them”.  Surely, if Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, surely Jesus was capable of removing the grave clothes, either by hand himself, or miraculously.  But he didn’t.  “They” had to do it.

What would you have done if you were one of “them”?  I can imagine several reactions if I try to put myself in their place.  Consider these possibilities and contemplate what you might have done:

ONE: I might have gotten a good whiff of the scent of death (I somewhat doubt that just because Lazarus was alive, that the smell that had been trapped in the linen was gone) and thought, “No way!  I think I’m going to throw up!”

TWO: if I was a perfectionist, I might say: “I’ve never unwrapped a dead person before.  How do you do it?  What if I do it wrong?”

THREE: I might have been too puzzled to do anything.  I might have thought, “This can’t possibly be happening.  There’s got to be some other explanation for this.  Lazarus must not have been dead – we must have buried him prematurely!  It’s a miracle he survived!”

What’s the point of all this?  Simply this: I wonder how we respond when Jesus invites us to do something.  Are we willing to dive into the stink that ministry can sometimes be in order to do what He asks of us?  Are we worried that we’re not good enough or don’t know enough to do what He asks?  Would we seek for another way, some other explanation?

We didn’t have the incredible privilege of witnessing the events of John 11 with our own eyes.  But Jesus still invites us, just as he invited them, to join him in what He does.  Will we?

PRAYER:  Sometimes, Lord, we are frightened and confused and feel too incapable of doing anything meaningful or well enough in life.  We get so down on ourselves because of the enemy’s constant attacks and our all-too-frequent failures to feel we can be of any use to You.  And so we do nothing.  Help us to spring into faithful action when we hear Your voice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/17/18 – God’s Face Streaked with Tears

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DayBreaks for 1/17/18: God’s Face Streaked with Tears

From the DayBreaks archive, January 2008:

This past week, our small town suffered a great loss.  A young girl, Courtney, was struck down at the tender age of 16 by Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare form of cancer.  She’d become somewhat of a “celebrity” (in a good sense) in our town for her valiant struggle for the past two years.  Her death has hit our town hard and made us all again aware of the presence of the last enemy that will someday be destroyed.

Perhaps my favorite chapter of the entire Bible is John chapter 11 – the story of the raising of Lazarus.  The emotion of the chapter is intense, the message precious. 

First of all, we need to realize that God is a Spirit.  Spirits don’t have eyes, arms, legs, backs or beards.  Spirits are, well…spirits.  Since I’ve never seen one, I can’t tell you what a spirit looks like, but they don’t have bodies per se.  And that complicated things for God.

When God wanted us to know what He was like, He couldn’t just come down in His Spirit and show us.  (I don’t even know if spirits are visible!)  And that’s why the incarnation was so critical.  For us to see God, we had to see something in the form of flesh and blood.  And that takes us to the story of Lazarus.

The shortest verse in the bible – you know it and can quote it – “Jesus wept.”  Perhaps that’s the shortest verse in Scripture because God knew that for the most part, we’re not very good at memorizing Scripture.  But I think it’s the shortest verse in Scripture for a different reason: God knew how important it would be to us so He made it a simple verse that we could remember.

As Jesus stood at the grave of his friend, Lazarus, John says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”  Unlike some political candidates or actors, the tears on Jesus’ face were real, just like ours.  They were no act.  They tasted salty, just like ours.  John saw those tears himself.  Think about that.  When Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, for what may have been the first and only time, humanity saw tears run down the face of God.  And it made such an impression on John that he kept it hidden in his heart until he wrote his gospel and shared it with us.

We needed to know that God weeps with us as we stand at the gravesite.  We need to know that He remembers what it felt like to see death take a loved one in its cold, clammy hands.  We need to know that God, with tears running down his face over what has become of His creation, steps forward at moments like that and says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” And we certainly need to know that as Jesus stands before the resting place of the dead – the most impenetrable fortress of all – he speaks: “Take away the stone.  Lazarus, come forth!” 

It says that those last words were spoken with a loud voice.  Jesus didn’t whisper into the darkness of the tomb, wondering if he could pull this off.  If he hadn’t been sure of his power to do what he was doing, he might have whispered the words where no one could hear – just in case it didn’t work out.  But he didn’t.  He shouted it out so that everyone would know that he held power over the fortress of death.

And as life returned to Lazarus, I feel sure that the tears disappeared from the face of God, to be replaced with smiles and laughter and eyes that sparkled with delight as his friend came forth from the tomb. 

When you weep – remember, God’s face has been streaked with tears.  He knows.  He understands. 

PRAYER: Oh, God, I’m so glad that You have tasted tears.  It is beyond precious that You chose to weep in front of us so that we would know Your love for us.  When we weep, remind us that You still know, You still feel, You still care.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 9/21/17 – I Wonder About Lazarus

DayBreaks for 9/21/17: I Wonder About Lazarus

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

ABID JAN, Ivory Coast (08/26, Reuter’s): “A 2-year old girl was recovered alive three days after she was buried in a village cemetery.  Grave diggers in the area heard the young girl and immediately uncovered her grave.  Minata Lafissa was taken back to her parents in the village of Yakasse-Feyasse.  Lafissa was originally pronounced dead from a mystery illness.”

What a terrifying experience this must have been for little Minata!  One of my greatest fears (I’m claustrophobic – afraid of being closed in), is that I would be buried alive.  I can’t hardly stand to crawl underneath a car to change oil!  Can you imagine what it would be like to be sick, fall asleep, and wake up some time later in a closed, sealed coffin – buried alive!?!?!  It is the stuff of the worst horror movies and nightmares.

How do you feel about death? 

John 11.43-44: When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

There was a difference between Lazarus and Minata: unlike Minata, he was really and truly dead, it was done, over, finished.   He, like Minata, had been in the grave for days.  Only he was dead for all that time – not awake and screaming.  Then, all of a sudden, he hears an irresistible Voice – he opens his eyes and sees he is in a tomb.  Somehow (the verse isn’t real clear on how it exactly happened) his body moves forth out of the tomb (he couldn’t probably walk wrapped up as he was – it appears that he perhaps was “levitated” out of the tomb, but who knows?)  His eyes begin to see light through the wrappings around his face.  The first face he sees is probably his friend Jesus, or the faces of his sisters, Mary and Martha, as their trembling hands remove the wrappings.  They’ve all been crying, but for different reasons.  Mary and Martha are crying out of incredible joy for having their brother back.  Jesus has been crying because of the ravages of sin on mankind that brought death to his friend. 

How do you think Lazarus felt?  I wonder if he was happy to be back, or if he’d rather of stayed where he was.  (Probably a silly thing to wonder – if he was with God!)  How would I have felt?  If I’d already gone through the anxiousness of death itself, of the painful good-byes to loved ones, of drawing the last breath with a shudder – I think I wouldn’t be too keen on repeating the experience all over again.  I wonder what he saw while he was dead.  We simply aren’t told, because it really isn’t important.  I’d have liked to see him, talk with him, to have known him after this happened.

But, at the same time, if I’d been Lazarus, I would be amazed.  I would be standing before Jesus, knowing that some incredible power, His incredible power, had made me alive again after I’d been dead.  Here’s the amazing thing: I have been where Lazarus was!  If you’re a believer in Christ, you’ve been there, too:  Col 2.13: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins… 

How does it feel?  I have been brought back to life by God’s amazing power.  And I am sustained by His great power.  And even though I will die physically, I will not die spiritually – I will live forever with Him.   Let me tell you in case you haven’t experienced this resurrection of the spirit – it feels great!!!!

What Jesus did for Lazarus, what He’s done for me, He can and will do for you – if you believe in Him.  He wants to raise you to a new life.  He wants to raise your friends and family to the same life, too.  When you look at your fellow-believers this weekend at church, remember – you’re looking at a person who has been raised from the dead by the power of Jesus Christ!

PRAYER: Father, thank You for life, for stirring and breathing life into our dead souls.  Help us to celebrate and rejoice in the new life You have given us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2007 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 4/24/17 – Fearing the Stink We Miss the Glory

DayBreaks for 4/24/17: Fearing the Stink We Miss the Glory

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

One of my very favorite stories from the bible is the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11.  It has all the elements a great story should have: drama, passion, a villain, a hero and a happily-ever-after.  What’s not to like about this story?

Yet, you recall how it goes: Jesus has been out of town, and his good friend falls sick.  Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, send someone to Jesus so he can come and heal Lazarus of his illness.  The messenger reaches Jesus, but he intentionally delays his return.  By the time Jesus gets back to Bethany, Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for 4 days.  The sisters aren’t too happy with Jesus for not coming sooner, but Jesus leads them out to the tomb.  In John 11:39, the sisters, after Jesus asks for the stone to be rolled away, complain: Lord, already there is a stink because he has been dead four days. 

Jesus responds: Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God. 

It will stink.  “Over and over again we are stopped by the repulsion of the stink, even when Jesus is offering God’s glory.  To live lives of faithful worship, to cultivate God’s imagination for justice, to trust Jesus Christ to do a work of liberation and transformation means there will be times when our noses will be filled with the stench of human need and evil.  But far more profoundly, we will also have glimpses of the glory of God that can set the captives free.”  – Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship

How would you have felt if you were one of those who was asked to move the stone? Would you have drawn back in repulsion and said your back hurt so you couldn’t help move it? If the stone hadn’t been moved, would Jesus have raised Lazarus?  I don’t know.  I suspect he might have.  But I don’t know that.  But wouldn’t it have been a shame if the stone hadn’t been moved and God’s glory had been blocked by a human fear of smell?

How often have I been afraid to go somewhere with Jesus because I was more concerned about the “stink” than about the glory of God? 

PRAYER: Take away our fear of the scent of sin and death so we can see Your glory, for it is in the darkest and most foul places that Your greatest miracles are wrought.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/17/16 – Lazarus and the Second Time Around

DayBreaks for 11/17/16: Lazarus – and the Second Time Around

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2006:

John 11:43 (NLT) – Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  And Lazarus came out, bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

I deeply love this story.  I would give anything to have been there to see this happen.  But alas, I was born about 2000 years too late.  Lazarus had been dead for 4 days – that time period is significant.  There were at least some of the ancient Jews who believed that once a person died, the spirit would loiter around the body for as long as 3 days, waiting to see if it could re-enter the body.  But on the fourth day, because of the lack of preservatives such as we have today, the decomposition would have so distorted the face of the body that the spirit would no longer recognize the body and it would depart, never to return.  And the body would lay in the tomb, bound in the graveclothes (interestingly enough, these wrappings and clothes were called the “traveling dress” by the Jews), awaiting the day of resurrection.

I’ve wondered many times how Lazarus felt about being called back from the dead.  Did he have any say in the matter?  If so, it’s hard to imagine that he’d want to come back.  Would you?  I wouldn’t.  Regardless, even though it had been 4 days, Lazarus was back.  What a thrilling moment that must have been for his family and the bystanders!

But what has struck me more recently wasn’t the scene of this resurrection, but the contemplation of the next time that Lazarus lay upon his death bed.  It would not be unfamiliar territory to Lazarus – he’d been on a death bed before.  But I would imagine that this time, Lazarus’ attitude and thoughts about death would have been much different.  It was no longer a mystery – he’d experienced it.  And he knew that death was no kind of barrier at all to Jesus.  Lazarus personally knew what the voice of Jesus that would call him out the tomb on the resurrection day would sound like, and he knew he’d hear it and he’d once again (but for the last time!) rise again from his burial.  Do you think for a single moment that Lazarus had ANY fear as he lay on his mat, dying the second time? 

We will all lie on our death bed at some point.  Scripture is clear, from John 5, that the day will come when ALL who are in the grave will hear the voice of Jesus commanding (not asking!) them to come forth from the tomb.  And we’d better have our “traveling dress” ready when that time comes, for there will be no delay. 

Because Jesus raised a little girl, a widow’s son, his friend Lazarus, and ultimately himself, he’s given us plenty of reason to trust that He is who He claimed to be: I am the resurrection and life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. (Jn. 11:25)

PRAYER: Jesus, may we keep our traveling dress pure and clean so that when our spirits hear your command, we will rejoice and have no fear.  May we rest, both in life and in death, in peace that only comes because of You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 9/07/16 – The Man Who Came Back to Life

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DayBreaks for 9/07/16 – The Man Who Came Back to Life

John 12:9-11 (NLT) – When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.

Lazarus had become a spectacle and a curiosity piece overnight. His instant fame wasn’t because of something he’d done, but because of something that had been done to and for him. In some ways, it’s not that different from the Kardashian’s – I’ve yet to figure out why they are famous – what have they ever done to deserve all that attention?  But I digress…

Even though Lazarus hadn’t done anything to warrant the attention – he got it. After all – how often would someone have a chance to look at a man who was dead (and not just for 30 minutes, but four days!!!) and perhaps even to get to ask him some questions about his experience. I would have had tons of questions!

But there was a problem – he’d caught the attention of not just the masses, but the religious leaders had taken notice, too. I wonder: what because of Lazarus? The leaders succeeded in killing Jesus – did they make good on their plan to kill Lazarus, too?  Perhaps they didn’t kill him because once Jesus rose and the rulers were in a tizzy because of it, they may have forgotten about Lazarus. Perhaps they thought if they killed him and he rose, too, that it would only make matters worse so they decided to leave him alone.  Or, perhaps Mary, Martha and Lazarus moved to some obscure location and lived out the rest of a normal life. What we do know is they wanted to kill because he was a powerful part of the Jesus story and a walking witness – without even speaking a word! 

All those things don’t really matter – but what does matter is that those who are friends of Jesus are at risk if they lead/help others to believe in Jesus. Lazarus did. His life was a testimony to the reality of the power of Jesus as the Son of God.

All over the world there are brothers and sisters who are part of the Jesus story, too, who are risking their lives every day just because they are living testimonies of the reality of who Jesus is. Are you praying for them daily? Am I?

And what does my being alive say, if anything, about Jesus? Will anyone ever want to kill me because of the testimony of my life?

PRAYER: God, I confess that my first instinct is to count the cost of what something I might do for someone else means to me and my wishes and my goals and my “place”! Help me to know when it is right to count the cost and when it is right to simply say, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.